Historic library may close as subsidy slashed

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The Independent Culture

A historic London reference library containing 50,000 books, including unique, centuries-old tomes relating to the history of the British Museum, is under threat of closure.

The Paul Hamlyn public library at the British Museum, which has a unique collection of museum guidebooks dating from 1762, along with collections on archaeology, history and art, could close as the institution seeks to cut costs.

"It is with regret that the British Museum is having to consider the closure of the Paul Hamlyn Library," a spokeswoman said. The museum is scaling back to accommodate a 15 per cent cut in government subsidy over the next four years.

The library's rare books include Formulare Anglicanum by Thomas Madox, Antiquities of Athens by James Stuart and the complete works of Niccolò Machiavelli. According to a report in this week's Museums Journal, the museum is consulting 11 staff at the library over the future of its collection, as part of a 90-day internal consultation process.

Robert Dufton, director of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said: "We would be disappointed to see the closure of the Paul Hamlyn Library at the British Museum. We believe that the library has an important part to play, alongside online resources, in enabling effective and deep learning, and providing information about the collections at the museum."